NASA’s new cloud is just a grid

Every one is talking about the cloud.  Today on HPC wire I read how NASA is turning to Parabon to create a cloud to enable all the scientists to use machines all over the different NASA sites.  NASA will pay Parabon 600k to implement this.  Here is where you can read the article.

Obviously, I’m skeptical about this because to me cloud means more than just virtual machines and more than just taking machines with fixed personalities and routing appropriate code to them.  After a brief reading of Parabon’s technology it seems to offer the following:

– A web interface to launch a job

– A scheduler to schedule the job

– A client that runs on Operating Systems of different types:  Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux.

This just sounds to me like its a scheduler like Platform’s LSF or Adaptive Computing’s Moab.

There are some pluses:  Its in its 4th generation which should imply stability, and its got a sleek web interface.

But as I read this, to me its just Grid.  Yes, ladies, there is a difference between Grids and Clouds that people just don’t seem to get.  They also mention that their software is compatible with Virtual machines.  Big deal!  Virtual machines are just operating systems too.

The article states how they will be able to save money and consolidate resources.  I think that’s great.  And I think they’re moving in the right direction, but this is not a cloud.  This is a grid.

My definition of a cloud includes that all machines in your data center have no fixed purposes or personalities.  They can be interchanged.  All this Parabon solution does is puts a client on everybody’s machine (which I don’t think HPC folks will particularly enjoy) and puts it under management (which less people will enjoy).

These people are rightly focused on the end user, but the solution seems to put more burden on the IT staff.  In case you haven’t spoken to your friendly IT administrator, I can assure you they more than likely already have their hands full.  Cloud solutions also need to make life easier for the Admin and make it so that he doesn’t have to install machines.

What happens if NASA user Joe decides he wants to run his app, but his app only runs on SLES 10.2?  Now what if all the SLES10.2 boxes are taken?  But, there are 100 Red Hat 5.3 boxes sitting idle and 5 Windows XP boxes not doing anything?  Tough luck Joe.  With this solution, you can’t have those nodes, because you’re running on a Grid, not a Cloud.

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